Early History of Alabama Campers on Mission
In 1971 the Sunday School & Home Mission Boards, led by Joel Land, did a study on RV'ing. He wrote articles for the Baptist newspapers of several states including our Alabama Baptist newspaper. The articles invited people with campers to an organizational meeting of the National Campers on Mission on May 19-21, 1972 in Kentucky.
The stated objective of the national organizational meeting was “to bear witness to the saving power of Jesus Christ, to communicate through word and deed to the good life in Christ, and to be genuine and sensitive in our relations with other people." The initial ministries were resort/campground ministries, lending a helping hand in setting up camp, doing day camps, backyard Bible Clubs, VBS, and etc. Construction was not on the radar screen.
One hundred one families from across the country attended the Kentucky meeting. The camping fee, including electricity, was an astronomical $2.25 per day! When the state roll call was made, Gordon (Evelyn) Conway stood up and yelled "War Eagle" and Wintford (Martha) Haynes immediately replied "Roll Tide". Rhoy and Glendean Swearingen also attended. All three couples heard about the meeting through The Alabama Baptist article.
The three couples met in Kentucky and discussed a plan to commence an Alabama Chapter. They wrote a letter to every Director of Missions in the state and also ran an article in The Alabama Baptist. The initial meeting was held Oct. 20-23, 1972 at Wind Creek State Park. When they arrived, the three couples were apprehensive; they had no idea if anyone would attend. They set up around a large campfire on a cool October day and 19 families attended!
The next meeting occurred the following spring and was also at Wind Creek. They continued to promote the idea and attendance doubled! Officers were elected with Wintford Haynes agreeing to serve as President, a position he held through 1978. He was succeeded by Gordon Conway who served as President until 1982. Rhoy Swearingen was the initial Treasurer and Tom McGuire was elected Corresponding Secretary. A hat was passed and the 19 couples generously contributed $20.00 to go toward general expenses. And in the spring of 1973, they had met, ett and passed the hat and thus Alabama COM became one of the early state chapters officially organized.
The first mission trip was planned for the summer of 1973 which was a Back Yard Bible Club at the City Park, in Onarga, IL. Onarga is about 100 miles south of Chicago. It would be 1978, five years later, before the first church construction trip was scheduled to Ladoga, IN.
The Knowltons, a family from Montgomery, joined COM in 1974. They were not only the first retired couple but they also were the first members that owned a motor home! In 1975 the Knowltons and Jimmy & Colleen Dobbs went on their first COM trip just up the road to South Dakota. In Tennessee the Dobbs wrecked their pop-up, purchased a new one and continued on. On site in South Dakota, both the Haynes and Dobbs lived in their pop-up campers while others had a cab-over!
Jimmy Dobbs soon became a Project Leader and led many COM projects serving deep into the 1990's
By 1978, Alabama COM membership passed 50 families and they were doing three or four projects a year. In fact, through most of the 1980's the norm was just a few projects. An annual project at Shocco Springs became a staple; otherwise most projects were out of state. Projects were scheduled out of state because membership primarily consisted of working families and the projects were scheduled around family vacations.
It would be 9/21/1996, twenty five years after ALCOM's inception, during Harvey Hastings tenure as President of Alabama COM, before formal by-laws were adopted.
Winford Haynes 1972 – 1978
Gordon Conway 1978 – 1982
LW Riderhour ???? - ????
Jimmy Dobbs ???? - 1990
Ray Danner 1990 - 1992 ( Could Have Served 2 Terms)
Herman Reed 1994 – 1996
Furman Tony 1996 Resigned to go to fulltime mission field
Harvey Hastings 1996 – 1998
O*Neal Robinson 1998 – 2000
Wilton Whigham 2000 – 2002
Glenn Whiddon 2002 – 2004
Don Standridge 2004 – 2006
Walt Miller 2006 – 2008
Pete McKnight 2009 – 2012
Ray Vanslyke 2012 - 2014
Ron McMonagle 2014 – 2016
Bill Foster 2016 - 2018
Nora Thompson 2018 - 2020
Walt Miller 2021 - 2023
Roger Woodard 2023 - 2025